Effectiveness change management in London Libraries

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"It is an accepted ideology of modern life that change is constant, of greater magnitude and far less predictable than ever before. For this reason, managing change is acknowledged as being one of the most important and difficult issues facing organizations today…This is why the range of competing theories and advice has never been greater or more puzzling."

Hayes (2008), Dunphy et al (2008), Carnall (2003), Cameron and Green (2006), Senior (2002), and Kotter (1996) provide overviews of the themes, debates and approaches to change management. They outline views of planned change from the work of Lewin from the 1940s onwards and the Organization Development movement. They go on to describe the emergent change approach, which developed from the 1980s. It rejected the planned approach and emphasized instead that organizational change is an ongoing, open-ended process of adapting to an unpredictable and constantly changing environment.

Both views have theoretical and practical advantages and disadvantages and there is scope for a range of complementary approaches. Burnes (2004) and Cameron and Green (2007) set out that there are three main schools of thought underpinning approaches to change management distinguished by their respective concentration on the individual, group, or organization. The latter is referred to as the Open Systems schools, which sees Organizations as open to and interacting with the external environment and opens internally with sub-systems interacting with each other. Consideration needs to be given to the level and depth of change and to the environment, which can be seen on a scale moving from stable to turbulent. Burnes (2004) describes recent models of change as the incremental, punctuated equilibrium, and continuous transformation models of change.

Writers such as Dawson (2003) and Pettigrew (cited in Buchanan and Boddy, 1992) set out a procession perspective, which recognizes competing narratives and multiple histories, and considers the politics, context and substance of change, whilst others refer to complexity theories and chaos theory (Fitzgerald, 2002, for instance).

In the light of these academic viewpoints, this dissertation attempts to make a detailed assessment of a case study in the practical management of change. The study is of changes from 2005 onwards in London's Community Libraries.

Library services have in recent times faced considerable pressure to change, not least because of significant changes in use. This has been partly as a result of the easy and increasing availability of information on the Internet and the fact that books have generally become more affordable. There has been an overall, long-term decline nationally and locally in visits to public libraries and the lending of books, which are key performance indicators. This emphasized the promotion of reading and informal learning, access to digital skills and services, and measures to tackle social exclusion, build community identity, and develop citizenship.

As part of its response, London Libraries carried out a partial restructure of staffing in its Community Libraries, refurbished many libraries including greater use of new technology such as self-service issuing of books, and attempted to introduce what are described in Libraries documentation as 'new ways of working.' These changes aimed to ensure that staff put customers at the heart of everything they do, release professional staff time for improving and promoting the service, improve performance indicators, and at the same time to reduce costs.

Justification for the Research

"Many and some argue the majority, of change projects fail to achieve their intended outcomes."

A recent study of managers' experience of organizational change in theory and practice found that interviewees "saw an important gap in the development process of organizational change theory, namely the failure to monitor and evaluate changes so that theory could be built on experience in practice." The authors also believed that this supported the views of other writers. The proposed research for this dissertation will enable the detailed assessment of a case study.

The research has practical value to London Libraries. It allows the service to see the results of a thorough assessment of the management of change and to obtain views of staff at all levels. Normally, in this organization as elsewhere there is little time available or devoted to following up change systematically, to consulting all staff, to assessing the impact of change, if any, and how it has been handled. Therefore, this research provides a rare opportunity to those involved with planning or enabling further change to try to learn from experience.

Overview of the Literature


This heading critically reflects upon theories and approaches to change. It will begin with a consideration of key theories regarding change in general and restructuring in particular. It will show where the research problem fits into that body of knowledge discussing key aspects of change and identifying research questions. It will also look at recent key government documents regarding libraries. It concludes with a critique of models and develops this to create a conceptual model to be used to answer the research question.

There is a large body of work devoted to change reflecting the continuing relevance of the subject and the ongoing debate about the most effective approaches. Research has been carried out in a wide range of text books and journals, particularly the Journal of Organizational Change Management, Harvard Business Review, and Human Relations.

In addition, research has included consideration of change in relevant related subjects such as culture, psychology, leadership, strategy, and human resource management. Searches have also been made using the Internet and databases.

Approaches to change

Planned Change

Burnes (2004) describes planned change as consciously embarked upon and directed by an Organization as opposed to change which might be forced on an Organization or might come out by accident. The term was coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s and his approach consisted of four interrelated elements, namely Field Theory, Group Dynamics, Action Research, and the Three-Step model of change. Lewin (1963) explains that a change towards a higher level of group performance is often short-lived, so permanency of the new level should be included in the objective of a planned change.

He states that a successful change should therefore include three aspects: unfreezing, moving to the new level, and refreezing group life on the new level. The unfreezing will need a catharsis:

"To break open the shell of complacency and self-righteousness it is sometimes necessary to bring about deliberately an emotional stir-up."

Emergent Change

The emergent approach to change considers that change is ongoing and that it is an unpredictable process of aligning and realigning to a turbulent environment. Gradual change might be achieved through a process of continuous adjustment with change evolving, a cumulative effect on work processes and social practices through improvisation and teach.

Context and situation, environment, and the desired depth and speed of change are all important factors. The approach to change must be carefully chosen on the basis of analysis of the situation and available resources with the 'ambidextrous' organization able to manage both incremental and transformational change simultaneously and/or sequentially. Sometimes significant results can be achieved by small interventions. Possible benefits of incremental change are seen as the development of small wins, building momentum, support and capability, making positive culture changes, improving efficiency and performance, and potentially encountering less resistance. The case study for this dissertation includes an attempt to encourage or stimulate emergent change following a partial restructure and so the research will also assess whether this has been effective.

Complexity theories are concerned with how order is created in dynamic, non-linear systems (Burnes 2010). They propose that change is complex and messy and that there is an inter-relatedness of individuals, groups, Organizations, and society. Understanding the role of power and politics is important and the struggle for domination is a central feature. Procession analysts such as Dawson (2003) and Pettigrew (cited in Buchanan and Boddy, 1992) set out a perspective which recognizes competing narratives and multiple histories leading to ongoing reshaping of change. This considers politics, context and substance of change and believes that power, politics and change are inextricably linked (Buchanan and Badham, 1999). Politics are both internal and external and may be subtle and below the surface, context is internal and external with competing histories, and substance includes scale and scope, defining characteristics, and timeframe. Change cannot be viewed as a single event or discrete series of episodes and there is often no clear start or finish. Dawson (2003) uses detailed longitudinal fieldwork so as to move beyond snapshot accounts of radical change. However, he states that the procession perspective should not be given an 'emergent' label. It neither views non-linear dynamics of change as only evident in a turbulent environment nor entirely rejects the notion of planning. Change is unpredictable though and needs to allow for unexpected twists and turns, omissions and revisions.

Individual, group or Organizational change and depth of change

There are three main schools of thought underpinning approaches to change management distinguished by their respective concentration on the individual, group, or Organization (Cameron and Green, 2005, and Burnes, 2004). To change individuals it is important to create a desire for change and remove complacency but also to reduce anxiety. This approach believes that people want to develop themselves. Options include the use of training and learning, getting reward strategies right, linking goals to motivation, and understanding the emotions and cycle which individuals will go through when experiencing change at varying times and different rates, for example, moving through denial, loss, and anger, to acceptance.

Approaching change at a team or group level may be more effective. However, there is a need to understand culture, values, ambiguity, and role conflict. Work to bring about change may involve group forming, norming, storming and performing, but management teams are more likely to emphasize the business case for change and close things down early rather than keep options open (Cameron and Green, 2005). Cameron and Green (2005) state that there is a real lack of authoritative research on the interplay between Organizational change and team working. Change at an Organizational level uses different metaphors for the Organization, such as machines or political systems, and various models and recipes for implementing change as set out above, none of which can be described as wholly effective. The Open Systems schools stress the importance of looking at the Organization in its entirety (Burnes 2004). It understands the Organization to consist of interconnected sub-systems open to and interacting with each other and the external environment. The emphasis is on overall synergy and change needs the cooperation and consent of groups and individuals who make up the organization. It views training as a potentially important mechanism for change, but one which is unlikely to succeed on its own without tapping into the talent and energy of the workforce.


Restructuring is often seen as a solution to a variety of issues and is carried out all too frequently without being effective and at great cost to time, morale, and efficiency, at least in the short to medium term. Schwarz and Shulman (2007) states that a pervasive finding in literature on change is that Organizations tend to fall back on more of the same, even when they undergo major structural change. It can sometimes bring about change but not always by itself and culture change also needs to be addressed (Mullins, 2008, and Schwarz and Shulman, 2007).

"Major structural change is one of the most disruptive types of change…because it deeply affects the informal Organization, the network of interpersonal relationships and communication that members have established over time." (Heffron, 1989)

The partial restructure which is part of the subject of this case study will be examined in the light of these concerns and will consider whether it was justified and effective and what worked well and what did not.

Key aspects of change

There may be no one best way to manage change which is effective in all situations, but there are certain important aspects of change to consider when attempting to plan or stimulate change. These will now be discussed because the approaches to them are examined in this research.


Culture may be below the surface but it exerts tremendous power and must be understood.

"Culture is both a dynamic phenomenon that surrounds us at all times, being constantly enacted and created by our interactions with others and shaped by leadership behavior, and a set of structures, routines, rules, and norms that guide and constrain behavior."

When managers try to change the behavior and attitudes of staff, as in this case study, they are likely to encounter inertia or outright resistance, which may seem unreasonable. Leaders must learn to be aware of and decipher the culture of the Organization and groups at the various levels of artifacts, espoused beliefs and values, and basic underlying assumptions, which portrays corporate culture as clear, strong and homogenous, whereas in reality it is often ambiguous in relationship to or detached from the 'real' organizational culture.


The role and quality of leadership plays an important part in change. Leaders need to inspire, sell, mobilize, enable and navigate effectively to make change happen, but leadership is increasingly seen as a team as well as an individual responsibility. Leaders need clarity of vision and values, the ability to communicate these by what they say and do, and emotional resilience. There are many competing definitions of leadership but the following is relevant here:

"Leadership is the creation of new realities."

Leaders need to develop themselves and learn from and admit to mistakes. They need to be aware of and allow Organizational members to make progress through the natural process of human adaptation using empathy, encouraging engagement, energizing staff, and reinforcing the changes. Leaders are warned not to declare victory prematurely or lose focus, but instead to make change stick starting with themselves, reinforce appropriate behavior and performance, and provide training and support.


It is generally regarded as impossible to impose or enforce change effectively. An entirely top-down approach may lead to unexpected results, inertia, or reluctant compliance at best. Research by Parish demonstrates that antecedents to change such as fit with vision, employee-manager relationship quality, job motivation, and role autonomy all influence commitment to change. Significant affective commitment had the greatest impact on implementation success and improved performance. They refer to other writers who claim that there is a paucity of research on employee reactions to change. This research will attempt to address this area. When participation is effective it produces beneficial outcomes for individuals and Organizations, but authentic participation is needed and individuals need to be prepared adequately to be competent to participate. Some organizations have benefited from creating a critical mass of change actors through provision of space for reflection and dialogue and building networks of change-minded staff. Great care needs to be taken in designing the social architecture of participation in large groups to effect change so as to prevent splits into a small, active minority and a passive, dependent majority.

Communication, training and support

Closely related to important aspects of change set out above is the key role of effective communication. Persuasive communication of a consistent change message is required to help an Organization create readiness for a major reorganization. Kotter describes one of eight common errors in Organizational change efforts as under-communicating the vision by a factor of ten or one hundred or even one thousand. He urges those leading change to use creatively every method and vehicle possible to communicate constantly the new vision and strategy, keep the message simple, use metaphor and analogy, and have the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees. Managers need to align employees' expectations.

Change agent

The role and skills of the change agent are crucial in delivering or facilitating change effectively. Some writers find the concept of 'change agency' more valuable than the notion of a singular change agent because change should normally be driven by a 'cast of characters' or change agents to be effective. A change agent who is not politically skilled will fail and it is necessary to be willing to intervene in internal political processes, push certain agendas, influence decisions and decision makers, deal with criticism and challenges, cope with resistance, and maintain one's reputation.

"The change agent has to support the 'public performance' of rationally considered and logically phased and visibly participative change with 'backstage activity' in the recruitment and maintenance of support and in seeking and blocking resistance."

Resistance to change

Resisting change is a common reaction with the particular form depending on the individual's personality, competing commitments, the nature of the change, attitudes towards it and forces deriving from the group, the Organization and its environmental context. The form of resistance may vary from passive resignation to indifference, passive resistance, and active resistance. It is a common theme in the literature of change, but it should not always be seen as completely negative and can help to modify and translate the change into something which becomes more effective and workable.

"Much of what we refer to as "resistance to change" is really "resistance to uncertainty."

Evaluating the effectiveness and impact of change

Many writers argue that change usually fails to deliver all or most of its intended results and that sometimes aims are unclear anyway. Carnall proposes a balanced set of thirty two measures across five key areas to evaluate change: people; finance; marketing; operations and service; and corporate or business developments. The public sector Balanced Scorecard can also be used and looks at vision and strategy at the centre and inter-related headings for the perspectives of stakeholders, finance, operational excellence, and innovation and learning, each with key objectives, measures and targets.

It is important to try to learn from change and analyze what went right and/or wrong. Change should be assessed against the intended, sustainable outcomes and the desired speed of the change and lessons learnt should be shared. This case study attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of the change and lessons learnt.

Research Design

A literature review is carried out to understand theories on change management. Models are reviewed and a conceptual model developed for this research. Government policies relating to modernizing libraries and London Libraries documentation are reviewed. This enables investigation of the context, background, aims, approach, and implementation of the changes.


A self-administered questionnaire is devised to send to all staff who was involved in the restructure and subsequent changes in Community Libraries as change recipients. This provides the opportunity to obtain views from as many staff as possible. The questionnaire investigates opinions on how the restructure and further changes were carried out as experienced and perceived by change recipients. Negative and leading questions are avoided; careful consideration is given to sequencing, clear layout and design, and pre-testing.

The themes for the questions are derived from the literature research and resultant conceptual model but only those which could be influenced or experienced by change recipients. The questionnaire is not intended for use with the change director and principal change agent. It includes views on the key aspects of change from the conceptual model namely understanding the vision for change, participation, communication, training, and support. The questions are as follows: to find out about staff understanding of the need for change, views on consultation and participation; inspiration by the vision for change, the effectiveness of communication and training and development, and the effectiveness and impact of the changes both for themselves and on the service to users. An open-ended section allows for expression of views. A final section allows for assessing how representative the respondents are and checking that no sections of staff are omitted. This also enables analysis of the responses in different ways by asking staff for information on grade; gender; length of service; and they type of library in which they are working, which can range from a library which was subject of transformational refurbishment including introduction of self-service for users, or moderate refurbishment, or no refurbishment.

Semi-structured interviews

Staff would be asked at the end of the questionnaire if they are willing to volunteer to be interviewed. Following the return of the questionnaires and some initial analysis, the change director, change agent and five staff at various grades and at different types of libraries across the city would be invited to take part in one-to-one semi-structured interviews. This would be allowed for some cross-validation and the views of a cross-section of staff to be obtained in much more depth in recognition of the limitations of questionnaires.

London Libraries documentation

London Libraries documentation was examined from before, during and after 2005 so as to obtain some measure of the impact, effectiveness, and outcomes, if any, of the changes. This included performance indicators such as visits to libraries and book issues, user surveys, and user feedback forms submitted under the Council's "Have Your Say" system for comments, compliments and complaints. This helps to provide some form of triangulation for the findings of the research, but recognizes the difficulties with making linkages between changes and performance measures, not least in a local authority environment with multiple stakeholders and complex environmental factors affecting performance. The temporary closure of some libraries during the above period for refurbishment also has to be taken into account.

In addition, there was a considerable amount of documentation available from the change agent relating to service reviews in 2004 preceding the restructure, the process of the restructure itself including council reports, notes of meetings with staff and Trade Union representatives, emails from staff with management replies, recruitment and selection documentation, and full details of programmes of in-house and external training and development delivered to staff.

Ethical consideration

It is clearly understood from the outset that staff would wish to make comments in strict confidence and a commitment would be made to those who will complete questionnaires and agree to interview that information would remain anonymous and be stored securely and confidentially. This promise has been carefully observed .Those completing questionnaires could return them in hard copy with nothing to identify them and some chose to take this option. Interviewees remain anonymous except for the change director and change agent where this was not possible. The recordings are labeled in such a way that only the researcher knows who the interviewees were.

A neutral stance will be adopted as far as possible in the questionnaires and interviews. I am aware that some staff might be suspicious of someone from within Libraries but outside of the Community Libraries staff structure collecting data, but will try to clarify the purpose so as to allay any fears. It is decided to send hard copy questionnaires to all of those staff who does not have personal, individual email addresses so that they can reply confidentially rather than via a group email address and so that there is no reliance on their line manager requesting them to complete a form and perhaps influencing who is selected and their potential responses and return.

Timescale and Resources

The plan for the research project timescales is shown in the table below. Gantt chart will be made at the time of submission of Dissertation. In summary, there are the following considerations in the project plan:

Literature review -Already performed background literature search to help formulate research ideas, anticipate further extensive period of research before writing the Literature Review. Final literature survey before completion of the manuscript to cover any newly published work.

Questionnaire/ Interview Design - Have form of questionnaire which needs adapting for use. Intend to design the structured interview and questionnaire after the majority of the literature review is complete, will both be piloted and their design reviewed.

Interviews and Surveys -Visit participant Organizations to carry out interviews and surveys. An efficient and rapid response is expected as surveys issued and collected whilst at the participant Organizations.

Data Analysis -Structured interviews with responses analysed qualitatively. Surveys coded and responses analysed quantitatively.

Dissertation Drafts - Produce drafts of the dissertation sections for content discussion with supervisor throughout the timescale below, then draft dissertation will be of required standard with only minor revision required for submission.

Time Frame



Preparing the way


Choosing and Defining Research Topics


Collecting information


Organizing information


Preparing Proposal


Reviewing Proposal


Submission of Research Proposal


Literature review


Questionnaire/ Interview Design


Interviews and Surveys


Data Analysis


Dissertation Drafts


Reviewing all dissertation material


Submission of Dissertation

The main resource required to carry out the research is my time, I have the support of my employers to carry out this research and I will be able to take days out of work to visit the participant Organizations. I have the means to visit the participants (who are all in the UK) and also to analyse the data and write up the dissertation.